As you set down the last box off of the moving truck, you take a deep, satisfied breath. The moment you had hoped to enjoy as a new homeowner was quickly soiled by the overwhelming stench of mildew and mold.
“Lee!” a voice shouts from the open front door, “you forgot your purse in the front seat.” He saunters over, clutching your brown leather messenger bag in his hands.
“Oh shit. Thanks, Derek,” you say, taking the bag and placing it over your shoulder.
“No problem. Do you need help with anything else? I have a…thing…” he trailed off, gesturing behind him with his thumb.
“Yeah, no you can go, I’ll be fine. Thanks for your help.”
Derek leaves the foyer and drives off leaving you alone for the first time…well, ever. While having a roommate is great when it comes to paying the rent, you never realize how having someone around all the time used to be so comforting. Now that you’re a homeowner with this beautiful Victorian home on your hands, you finally feel what independence means and you’re not sure you like it.
After several hours of placing boxes in the rooms their contents belong in, you take a breather outside with a bottle of water.
As you sit, perched on the thick stone railing of your new front porch steps, an old woman walks by and smiles sweetly at you. Her hair has been box-dyed black, though her eyebrows still remain sparse and grey. She’s wearing a burgundy overcoat with a floral nightgown underneath. On a thin leash to her left sits a greying Shih Tzu, waiting to continue their walk.
“Hello dear,” she says “have you just moved in?”
You smile widely and bounce down the wide stone steps. “Yeah, my name is Leighanna” you extend your hand and she shakes it with a weak grip.
“It’s so nice to meet you. I will say it’s been quiet around here since Darren left” said the old woman, looking into your eyes with a broken-hearted expression.
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. The bank didn’t mention a previous owner”
“Well, they wouldn’t would they.” She looked into the distance over your right shoulder, seemingly into the house. Suddenly she blinked and snapped back into a sweet smile. “Well it’s getting cold dear, I must go back inside. Good luck moving in!” She waddled towards the house to the right of yours and closed the door with a small wave in your direction.
The houses you both lived in were rowhomes on a slanted street. The stonework exterior gave the house an enchanted look and the white trimmed windows and Sage green shutters brought the fairytale to life.
The house was three floors, three bedrooms, and 2 bathrooms. It was perfect, beautiful, and all yours. Dropping out of college to take up broadcasting was turning out to be the best idea you’ve ever had. The grin on your face as you stared up at the house was wide and content. You can’t remember the last time you were this proud of yourself.
You couldn’t quite be sure, but as you glanced over your new dominion, it looked as if there was something in one of the windows on the third floor; maybe someone. You darted up the front steps and up the two spiral staircases to the third floor. Once you arrived, you were out of breath, but relieved to see no one there.
What you did find, however, was a small book lying in the center of the room. It was a hardcover black book with a ribbon marking a page close to the end. You’d been saving the third floor for tomorrow since just the thought of climbing those small wooden steps made you winded. There were no boxes up here and the curtains were drawn on all of the windows but one. Through the dimming evening light, you pick up the book and flip through its pages.
Skimming through it quickly, words like “demon” and “suffer” and “horror” stick out. The book seemed to open itself to the place with the bookmark. Scribbled on the last few pages of the journal were the words “I can’t do this” written over and over again. They trailed off of the lines of the paper and became sloppier until the words become scratches and frustrated scribbles on the paper.
You close the book and look around. The sun has gone down and the room around you is now dark. “Shit,” you say aloud, cursing yourself for not thinking to bring a flashlight. Clutching the book between your chest and upper arm, you feel around blindly. You can’t even see your hand in front of your face, but manage to find the top stair. Carefully, you brace yourself between the confining walls and feel for the next step. You continue doing the same until you come to the first curve in the staircase.
You’re about to place your foot on the next step when you feel hands shove you hard from behind. You fall down the remaining stairs, ending up in the small hallway between the master bedroom and bathroom. With an assortment of bruises and heavy nosebleed staining the thin carpet, you flit in and out of consciousness.
A high pitched ringing starts plaguing your head and a sharp pain is radiating through it. Something is clearly broken and you’re too winded to move. Your eyes close on their own and you rest your head on the carpet, intending only for a moment to rest before attempting to get up.
Last Week’s Story: Passion
Next Week’s Story: Independence Part 2
Did you like this story? Want to read more like it? Check out my collection of short stories now available on Amazon!
Thanks so much for reading. I’d be happy to share my work with you, free of charge. I only ask that you email me at firstname.lastname@example.org before publishing or using my stories on YouTube channels, podcasts, or for other promotional things.